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Book Review: Sowing (The Purification Era Book 1) by Angie Grigaliunas

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Amazon.com – Sowing (The Purification Era) (Volume 1) by Angie Grigaliunas

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, Angie Grigaliunas, for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Plot: For Ariliah, life under the militarized Hulcondans is one of order and safety. Despite the soldiers’ ruthless policies, she trusts their judgment. Beyond the city wall, enemies lurk – a vicious race bent on devouring humanity. And if anything ever happened to the protectors, nothing would keep them out.

For her older sister, Rabreah, every glance from a Hulcondan is a threat. When even a whisper against them is treason and treason is death, Rabreah can’t risk one seeing through her as she sees through them. Joining an underground resistance to end their corruption seems like her only hope – until she meets the group’s enigmatic leader and realizes she doesn’t know the people she’s aligned herself with at all.

But when rebellious posters appear throughout the city and people start dying, their world begins to crumble.

And as the line between friend and enemy blurs, both girls must face the truth: everything is about to change.

Opinion:

The nerd in me is losing its s**t right now.

I don’t think you guys understand the painstaking dilemma that is like a raging tsunami building up inside me right now. How am I supposed to go on after this?! There is supposed to be EIGHT books in this series, and I don’t even know if I can wait for book TWO! I’M GOING TO LOSE IT!

I don’t think I can go on…*sigh*.

The Itzalin are a race of creatures hell-bent on destroying humans, but for years they have been kept at bay by the Hulcondans. Though Rabreah knows that her city would be destroyed with the Hulcondans, she finds disgust in watching the soldiers do whatever they please. She has witnessed them spread lies about women in order to ruin their name, and has herself been the victim of it. To Rabreah, the Hulcondans are a corrupt group that need to be taken down. But disobeying or speaking ill of them can lead to one’s death, so Rabreah must be careful. Not only does Rabreah seek freedom for herself and the young girls that are forced to marry these soldiers, but for her younger sister, Ariliah, who suffers daily abuse from their mother. But in Ariliah’s eyes, the Hulcondans keep them safe and deserve respect for what they do. As rebel posters begin being posted around the city and terrorists are brought forward, neither girl knows if they are safe anymore.

I started out 2017 with the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, which I know, was probably the stupidest idea ever. I mean the series is UH-mazing. Everything else just…only slightly had the ability to trickle awe and intrigue down my throat and into my pit of happiness and sheer excitement which I assume is somewhere…in my…body? I don’t know. Anyways. What I’m trying to spew out of my mumbling fingers onto this keyboard is this: We’re on some next level stuff right here ladies and gents.

Angie Grigaliunas has just ruined my life. Did I sleep last night? No. Can I think about anything else besides Sorek, Ariliah, Rabreah, and Lord Masrekah? Um…no. I’m at work right now guys, I’M NOT EVEN WORKING! I think I need rehab. Or maybe an insane asylum, since my life is now revolving around a fictional world and people that aren’t there. Sowing was SO GREAT! Incredible, amazing, and actually different! I read through this book like my life depended on it, and I need to read MORE. I can’t find ONE bad thing to say about this story, not one. The writing is detailed and even-paced, the characters are wonderfully developed and all possess a different quirk, and the plot is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

This author has done a wonderful job of tearing my opinion into two different directions. This story flips back and forth between Rabreah and Ariliah, who prove to be VERY different people. Rabreah has SERIOUS trust issues around the Hulcondans, or even men for that matter. If you look at this girl wrong, she’s like a wild shark on land that just got a whiff of blood. Needless to say, the girl has NO problem taking care of herself. Ariliah starts out being very different. She obeys her superiors, keeps her head down, and doesn’t speak very much to anyone except her sister. She views the Hulcondans as her saviors and people she can trust, and is fascinated with the idea of one day marrying one. As Rabreah makes her way into joining the rebel group, it is unknown to Ariliah. I am really starting to wonder how Ariliah will take that news…and which side she will choose. Especially since a certain Hulcondan soldier is showing interest in her. I am torn between the opinion that both of these characters have. Some of the Hulcondan are seriously messed up people, but some seem to be genuine and actually care.

We have to talk about Sorek. Ladies…you can let go of those fictional boyfriends of yours from other books now. They do NOT compare to the arrogance and complete pain in the ass that is Sorek. I mean, this guy has it all. He’s a complete badass when it comes to being a warrior, and he puts the sarcasm level through the roof. Even I was thinking to myself “Geez man, tone it down”. Sorek becomes a big part in this story, and I don’t want to give his role away and spoil it for you guys. There is OBVIOUSLY going to be a hot little romance between Sorek and Rabreah, once Rabreah stops thinking every man wants to abuse her. Our little Ariliah also begins to find herself in the flirting midst with a Hulcondan, and I am praying that his ends well for her. I am SO glad that Angie Grigaliunas didn’t do that typical author thing when it comes to romances. Oh you know what I mean guys. Waiting until book 2 or 3 to let the reader see even smidge of love in the air. Ugh…how I loathe that.

Of course the reader is left with an amazingly RUTHLESS cliffhanger at the end of book one, and why not? I mean this author already stabbed my soul with bliss, why not drag the knife in a little deeper? Right? Right. But you know what is really interesting about this story? The author has decided to focus more on the plot and characters, and less on the overall setting. I know that sounds a little insane considering this falls into the Fantasy genre, but somehow…this author has made it WORK.  I honestly don’t think I can tell you much about the city and the exact point in time we are looking at here, but it is all a little guess work. I like the fact that she doesn’t start explaining simple things like this until WAY later in the story, which is something I have never come across before.

Basically guys, you need to get this book. Seriously. GO BUY THIS RIGHT NOW. If you loved Throne of Glass, then this is EXACTLY the next series that you need to get addicted to. Though I don’t know how I will, I will somehow find a way to patiently wait until the next books are released. This series is going to be EPIC, and I am so happy to have found it so early on. Mark my words guys, The Purification Era books are going to BLOW UP. You better be on the train when it does.

5-stars

 

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Book Review: Blood Bound (Volume 1) by K. Carter

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, K. Carter, for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fiction

Plot: At the start of his junior year, Rian Michaels is forced to move back to his hometown in the wake of his close cousin’s death. While trying to piece his family back together, he also tries to comfort his cousin’s deeply grieving girlfriend, Emily. Instead of putting her grief at ease, he begins to feel something between them. In the mist of unforgivable lies, dark secrets and betrayals, Rian has to decide. What is truly thicker than blood?

Opinion: I just…wow, I don’t even know.

This book has a lot of reviews where readers are literally ranting and raving about how amazing and heart wrenching this book is, and here I am just sitting in my chair thinking…did we read the same book? *looks around the room for clarification*

Yeah?

Well, okay then.

Growing up in his hometown, Rian’s world revolved around his cousin Ian and their best friend Emily. But after moving away for his father’s work, it has been years since Rian has seen or spoke to his friends. So when the recent death of Ian is confirmed, Rian Michaels travels with his family back to the town where he grew up. Now Rian finds himself trying to make amends to Emily for leaving and not being there for Ian, while also learning some deep secrets in the process.

For some reason, I keep launching myself into books that turn out to be less than pleasing. I really didn’t like this story guys. Maybe I am being too harsh, but I was just expecting more out of this. The plot was promising, the secrets and lies gave it some nice twists, and it ended on a fairly positive note. The problem is this: the writing. It’s not that there are grammatical errors and badly formed sentences, because there really isn’t. It’s just feels like the author needs to mature in their writing.

I took a creative writing class my junior year of high school, wrote a short fiction story, and it turned out okay. The relation I am trying to make is this: I wrote, described, and structured my story EXACTLY like this book. That was YEARS ago though. Granted my writing will never be perfect, but I like to think it has improved quite a bit. What I am trying to say is, I just don’t think this is a complete story. Allow me to explain:

  1. The main female character gets out of bed, stumbles over to the mirror, and begins to describe what she looks like. This is beyond cliché for how to introduce the physical attributes for your characters, and it drives me insane.
  2. The main male character has an obscene amount of crude thoughts and is constantly cussing. I think a common mistake being made when writing for a teenage male character is going overboard on the fact that he is a male teenager. Yes they think a little crude and cuss a lot, but are they really saying f**k every two minutes? I mean this guy literally says “All I could do is lay on my back and stare at the ceiling fan and zone out like a two cent hooker”. – – What teenage boy says that?
  3. The characters go through turmoil and various emotions throughout the book, but there is no SUBSTANCE. I didn’t feel a connection to these characters, and I wasn’t really feeling their pain. Emily is going through a tremendously hard time in her life, but I didn’t feel like I was actually experiencing it with her. When Rian’s life begins to implode, it feels like he’s upset for about 3 pages and then gets over it by the 4th. Their teenagers. Dramatized situations is a thing.

This just wasn’t a good one for me, and I really don’t have much else to say about it. I am really bummed out because I thought this was going to be a great story, I mean LOOK AT THAT COVER! Though this wasn’t a winner for me, it seems like everyone else who has read it really enjoyed it. If you end up reading it, I hope it turns out better for you than it did for me.

2-stars

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Book Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen Book 3)

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Genre: YA/Adult/Fiction/Fantasy

Plot: In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Opinion: We’ve made it to Book 3 guys, and s**t just got real…kind of. This installment of the Red Queen series has action, misfortune, and a little bit of that romance. King’s Cage is upping the ruthlessness and deceit, and fans of Maven are finally going to get another taste of who he is and what he can do. Books 1 and 2 are just kindling compared to the real war that comes about in book 3. For those who are loving the battles that consume this story, this one is for you.

Assuming that you guys have been reading along, let’s start where book 2 has left off…shall we? For those of you who haven’t read the series yet, I will do my best to keep the spoilers to a minimum. Except for this paragraph, sorry. So, Mare is imprisoned and her hopes of escaping are pretty slim wouldn’t you say? Finally her character makes a little sacrifice for others instead of thinking about herself! I think we can all agree that we saw this coming, because this seems to happen in every YA/Fantasy story doesn’t it? Self-sacrificing one’s self has become QUITE the fad! I think what was really unclear when Mare gave herself up to Maven, was what Maven was going to do with her. This guys is the EPITOME of unpredictable, and I still don’t feel like I have a grasp on his character. Whether this is intentional or accidental by the author, I don’t care. I love it.

As the first half of this book is dedicated to Mare’s imprisonment, we get a fairly suitable glimpse into her time under Mavens watch. She is locked away in a surprisingly comfortable room, fed some very un-prison-like food, and obviously but confusingly…kept alive. Though we have witnessed Mavens unusual obsession with Mare, it still seems so stupid of him to keep her alive as she is such a powerful weapon. Though in true Maven fashion, it all ends up being for a bigger purpose: to use Mare as a pawn for Maven to begin to collect newborns. Not only must mare cope with her abilities being blocked by her guards and constantly trying to find a way to escape, but now she is being forced to tell the public that she is against the scarlet guard and everything they stand for.

I have to tell you guys, I am loving how the author has introduced so many different levels on mind games into this story. From book 1 the main character is lied to and manipulated by everyone around her, and still it continues. The fact that this series can become quite dark and really question your faith in humanity, is brilliant. Though the constant pattern of characters throwing each other under the bus is apparent, in book 3 we finally get to see some characters switching sides and supporting the cause. For one character in particular, I did NOT see that coming.

For the romance seekers who have been waiting patiently for the face-impaling and heart-lurching whirlwind that is Mare and Cal, you are finally rewarded. Ahhh yes…those many months have ignited the fire in these two young characters, and has finally blown up like a box of dynamite on Fourth of July! Picture it guys: an intense eye-lock from across the way, the release of doves, a slow-motion gallop to each other’s arms, a passionate kiss…blahhh blahhh blahhh. I mean, it was okay. For being pretty disappointed in this relationship from the start of this series, I’m not really surprised that their reunion fell flat for me. Once again, I just didn’t buy it. The story between these two feels like one that I was told in a 3 minute summary, and I’m still pretty uninterested. Oh well.

So apart from the reunion of Mare and Cal and Mare’s imprisonment, the rest of this book focuses on the battle of the ages. Just like before, and probably much more, I was skipping over the fighting. Like I said in my previous reviews for this series, I love a great action/battle scene in a Fantasy story. They get me amped up and hooked to the point where I can’t put the book down. However, I keep losing interest when it comes to the action scenes in the Red Queen series. There is too much fluff in it, and not enough of the author getting straight to the point. I feel like there should be more detail, not more of saying the same thing in three different sentences. I skimmed through the last part of the book, and stopped at the very end to see how everything got wrapped up.

In regards to the ending, saw that one coming didn’t we? It is obviously another cliff-hanger for what is to come, but it ends on a pretty emotional note. Or…what is supposed to be an emotional note. Again, I am left feeling nothing from it. I just CANNOT connect with Mare or really any of these characters. It’s driving me crazy! I am honestly not even sure if I will continue on with this series at this point, and I don’t think I will even miss out on much. With that said, I saw some improvements in the story and writing but it just isn’t enough for me. When I see a positive and get excited about one small aspect of the story, two things are thrown at me that I can’t stand. Unfortunately, I think this is where I end the Red Queen series. Good luck readers.

3-stars

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Book Review: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

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Genre: YA/Adult/Fiction/Fantasy

Plot: The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors. But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

Opinion: As I sit in my desk chair at work, obviously not working, I can’t help but wonder why I don’t stop to write a review before moving onto the next book in a series. Once again I have read book 2 and then immediately rushed to book 3 without even a second’s hesitation. Now I am sitting here with the misfortune of having to decipher WTF happened in books 2 and 3, because they have COMPLETELY blended together now. Obviously my need to know what happens next overshadows my responsibility to share my thoughts with you guys, but you are just going to have to suffer due to my selfishness. Book obsessions are a fickle mistress my darlings ❤

If you read my review for book 1 in this series, Red Queen, then you know that I was having some deep deeeeeeep issues with the fact that I couldn’t connect with the characters. Reading that a character is sad/guilty/happy/blah blah blah is COMPLETELY different than feeling what the characters feels. I don’t want to be TOLD that Mare is disappointed in herself for getting more people killed, I want to know it and feel it. As I was hoping would happen, the author has only improved in this while she has continued to write. After reading Glass Sword I was finally starting to feel the things that Mare, Cal, Kilorn, Farley and various other characters were feeling. As the story started building into a darker and more cutthroat story, the personalities and actions of the characters grew as well. Though I still feel as if Mares emotions aren’t translating as well as they could, I definitely am noticing an improvement and growth in the writing.

For me, halfway into this story is where it really starts excelling. Mare and her “team” have begun the search to recruit/rescue newbloods, and the abilities that these new characters show are KILLER! Their skills range from manipulating sound, teleporting, playing with gravity, changing ones physical appearance to match another, or being able to kill someone or something with only touch. Here is where the reader is introduced to some amazing new characters, and where I think the story actually comes into its own. As they start training the newcomers to fight and control their abilities, it starts to become clear that we are in for some epic battles in the next few books.

I am all for action scenes and cutthroat battles happening in a Fantasy story, but I am really starting to tune out of these sequences in this series. I keep finding myself skipping over a lot of these scenes, and I mean just flipping pages and not even looking back. I think there is a way to detail a battle without using so much wording, because this is what keeps losing my interest. In the Throne of Glass series there is a TON of fighting and killing happening, but I never lost interest once. I think this is because Sarah J. Maas really knows how to describe a moment in detail, but in a way that you are hanging onto her every word and not feeling as if you are being thrown too much information. In the Red Queen series this just wasn’t happening, and I couldn’t help but skip past these parts.

Glass Sword is where we also have a heart attack moment in which the author hints at a love triangle. But then again, there’s already a weird love triangle happening between Maven, Cal and Mare isn’t there? Well for those of you who love a nice romantic drama full of heart ache and emotional woes between three people…sorry. That’s not really happening here. In saying the least amount possible: some emotions are expressed, some emotions are respectfully shot down, and some other emotions are…emotional. J But fear not my romantic readers!  Book 2 is where the heat begins between Cal and Mare, and by heat I mean a very VERY dim flicker of flame on a tealight candle. Yes, it’s kind of a letdown. Though now I think we are all starting to realize that Victoria Aveyard has decided to focus more on the story, less on the romance. Which I can full on respect. You go girl!

With that said, I think this is a nice step towards what is to come in this series. I always see book 2 as the stepping stone for everything else that is building up in a story, and I feel like that with this one as well. I was glad to see that some of my concerns from Red Queen had improved in Glass Sword, and I can’t wait to see if things only get better. Though this series still hasn’t hit the WOW factor for me and has left me a little disappointed, I still find it an enjoyable read. If an author is keeping at least part of me interested and I am speeding through the series, then they have to be doing something right. I have already finished King’s Cage and hope to have a review up soon, so keep a look out guys!

3-5-stars

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Book Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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Genre: YA/Adult/Fiction/Fantasy

Plot: Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. There, before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess, and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays the only certainty is betrayal.

This sweeping story of palace intrigue, class hierarchy, and deception will keep readers hurtling along, desperate to find out Mare’s fate. Her honesty and determination, quick wit, and no-holds-barred attitude will surely make readers fall in love with her.

Opinion: Red Queen has been sitting pretty on my bookshelf for a few months now, but I keep putting it off for a few reasons. The first being that I had WAY too many books from authors/publishing houses to get through, and the second being that I didn’t want to get addicted to this series and read it too quickly…which I always do. The Red Queen series has been very hyped up in the book community, so I figured it must be amazing. I found myself really enjoying the story line, but something was missing for me.

Mare Barrow lives in a world where humanity is separated by the color of your blood. Silver bloods are blessed with powers that make them both godlike and elite, while the Red bloods are forced into servitude due to their lack of abilities. Mare, being a Red blood, has been living in poverty her whole life and has mastered the art of stealth and pick-pocketing in order to survive. But as her 18th birthday nears, so does her conscription into a never-ending war. As Mare desperately searches for a way to save herself and her best friend Kilorn from being put on the front lines, she finds herself in an even more compromising position…being a new servant to the Silver King. But when Mare begins work in her new position, her world flips upside down as she finds that she not only possesses an ability of her own, she is now betrothed to a Prince of the Silver court. With a hatred for the Silver kingdom and everything negative that they have brought against the Red bloods, Mare secretly joins the Scarlet Guard, a rebel group. Now Mare must decide who she can trust and how to survive, even if that means living with the enemy.

Long description I know, but these books are LONG. I couldn’t help but notice a lot of similarities to The Hunger Games while reading this book, and I think it had to do with the themes of rebellion and a court of insane characters. The Silver bloods are very similar to those that live in the first 3 districts of The Hunger Games, they are cruel, cold, and calculated. Of course the obvious difference is that the Silver bloods possess some seriously amazing gifts from the gods. Their powers range from super strength, wielding fire, manipulating metal, having control over someones abilities or mind, and so on. These traits are what make the Silver bloods more powerful than the Red bloods, and what allows them to control the lives of every Red blood in their kingdom. The Silver bloods are a brutal group in how they act and what they can do, but their appearance only adds to their dominance. Having Silver blood running through their veins makes them look pale and hard, almost inhuman. These traits definitely work to serve as many reasons as to why the Silver bloods have taken power of the Red bloods, and why it has been so hard for the Red bloods to rise up over the years.

Mare Barrow is an interesting character. She is a Red blood and has been in poverty all of her life with her family. She has seen all three of her older brothers go off to war due to conscription, and she has fought hard to find a way to help provide for her family. Unfortunately for Mare, she lacks any particular skill and is unable to find herself work as an apprentice. While living in the shadow of her perfect sister, Mare uses her time to steal from the Silver bloods in order to compensate for what she cannot do. I like that mare has a fierce and quick tongue, and has no problem speaking her mind. She holds strong morals and beliefs, and she bares these on her shoulders throughout the story.

What I found frustrating was that the chemistry and connection between characters, and between myself and the characters, was really lacking. I didn’t feel Mare and Kilorn’s strong life-long connection to each other, or a connection between mare and any other character for that matter. The author EXPLAINS the relationship between Kilorn and Mare or how the bond between Mare and Cal and Maven grows, but I didn’t believe it. It’s like someone just telling you that they have undying trust for someone else, rather than you noticing it and believing it. I just didn’t buy it. So naturally when the romances started to come forward, I was left rolling my eyes and thinking that they felt forced and unnatural. I find this happening in so many YA stories now, and it saddens me. I JUST NEED MORE!

Characters aside, this story has a really great imaginative feel and flow. The world that the author has created is wonderfully described and made up, even though I sometimes get a little lost in the countless names of characters, places, and abilities.  There is A LOT of description and character reflecting in this story, so be prepared for that. I found myself skimming through some of the paragraphs once and awhile because of the overload of explanations, but that’s just me. Besides a lot of great detail putting this story together, the author does a great job of inserting some amazing blindsides and twists and turns. I honestly had NO IDEA that the story was going to take a turn like it did, and I LOVED it. I mean naturally I am a bit crushed, but I adore when an author can do something unexpected.

Long review I know, but this story deserves it. I know that my review ended up sounding a bit more negative than even I was expecting it to be, but rest assured that this story really is enjoyable. I think that because this story was so hyped up, I was expecting it to be “out of this world” amazing. I am currently reading book 2, Glass Sword, and trust me…it’s getting crazy good. I am hoping the character development improves and becomes stronger, because I really want to have a connection o these characters. Keep a lookout for my review of book 2, Glass Sword!

3-5-stars

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Book Review: A Face Like Glass by Francis Hardinge

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, ABRAMS Kids, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Plot: In the underground city of Caverna, the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare—wines that remove memories, cheeses that make you hallucinate, and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. On the surface, the people of Caverna seem ordinary, except for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to express (or fake) joy, despair, or fear—at a steep price. Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. Neverfell’s expressions are as varied and dynamic as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, except hers are entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed . . .

Opinion:

WHEW! Listen up guys, because this is one book that NEEDS to be noted and fawned over.

“It draws you in. You twist your mind into new shapes. You start to understand Caverna…and you fall in love with her. Imagine the most beautiful woman in the world, but with tunnels as her long, tangled, snake-like hair. Her skin is dappled in traplantern gold and velvety black, like a tropical frog. Her eyes are cavern lagoons, bottomless and full of hunger. When she smiles, she has diamonds and sapphires for teeth, thousands of them, needle-thin.”

-The Kleptomancer, A Face Like Glass

Neverfell’s story begins at the young age of five, when she is found by Cheesemaker Grandible after falling into a vat of his curdling Neverfell milk. After rescuing her and taking one look at the young girl, Grandible notices the differences in the young child, covers her face with a mask, takes her in and appoints her as his apprentice. After some seven years later, Neverfell is accustomed to her life as a cheesemaker. But unable to remove her mask around other people or to leave the cheese tunnels, she finds herself fighting a curiosity about what lays beyond. Soon Neverfell’s opportunity to leave the tunnels presents itself, and she gets her first look at the world that she has been hidden from. But her freedom is short lived when her mask falls from her face, and what lies beneath is shown to the people of Caverna. Neverfell, unlike the residents of Caverna, is able to make expressions on her own without having to be taught. As word travels of Neverfell, she becomes sold to the highest bidder. Caverna is flushed with experts in dangerous and strange delicacies, and murder is just another game for the members of the court. Pushed into a world where Neverfell finds trust in the wrong people, she struggles to find a way to protect herself and to recover the memories that she feels may be lost forever. But most importantly, to find a way out of Caverna.

Caverna. Woah. This place is seriously vicious guys. Do you remember reading The Hunger Games and being introduced to the strange people in the capitol? These people were insane and followed bizarre fashion trends that made them both appealing and frightening. Trust me when I say, the capitol has NOTHING on the court in Caverna. These people are PSYCHOTIC. They create wines that have minds and temperaments of their own, cheeses that can explode upon a slight bump, and strange foods that have creatures trapped inside gelatin. Not only do they spend all of their free time trying to poison rival families or hire assassins, but they are unable to make facial expressions on their own. The higher up in society and the better-off you are, the more “Faces” you are able to buy for yourself. People of a lower faction usually are unable to have 1 to 3 faces, depending on their job titles.

How to prepare the perfect Cardlespray Wine:

“One hundred and three years…The grapes spoil if they are exposed to loud noises, so they are tended by a silent order of monks, and all the local birds are killed. The fruit can be harvested only at night during the new moon, and must be crushed by the feet of orphans. The barrels are stored deep in the earth, and only the softest, sweetest music is played to them, continually, for over a century. And after all this, the Wine is fit to be drunk…unless somebody throws it over a table.”

-The Grand Steward, A Face Like Glass

Neverfell finds herself caught right in the middle of the chaos that is Caverna. The people of the court are all trying to get her hands on her for personal benefit, she cannot remember her past, and there is a strange person labeled “the Kleptomancer” running around Caverna stealing incredible objects with no apparent motive. I felt so horrible for young Neverfell throughout this story, and it was honestly staring to feel like something out of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Her innocence started to become her downfall, and it was heartbreaking to see her trust in so many people that proved to be using her in a game much larger than her. Her character grows a great deal in this story however, and I really enjoyed who she becomes. She still has her morals and good intentions, but acquires a cunning and righteous personality by the end of the story. Not only does Neverfell work to help herself be free of Caverna, but she fights to free those who have no voice at all.

The writing in this story is AMAZING, and I can’t wait to start reading other books by Frances Hardinge. She writes with an amazing creative and descriptive style, and it almost feels like poetry after a while. She PERFECTLY set the scene for Caverna as being a dark and curious place, one that can both thrill and kill a person. I thought the entire idea for having a civilization underground was amazing, but one where the characters aren’t able to make their own facial expressions? GENIUS! I seriously couldn’t get enough of this story, and I am wishing it was a full-blown 20 book series. This is one of those stories you wish would make it to the big screen because of how dazzling it looks in your head, but one you fear they will completely ruin…like they usually do.

All in all, I LOVE this story! I have nothing negative to say, not one thing. I can’t help but give this book 5 stars, which I hope will lead to many of you going and purchasing this story RIGHT AWAY. It is the perfect amount of fantasy and science-fiction, and a great read that will twist your mind into two. This book is suitable for all ages, but the youngest I would say is Teens because the writing could get a little confusing for a younger audience.

5-stars

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Book Review: The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Non-Fiction

Plot: I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi’s jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight.

From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was…well, it was something else.

All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world.

To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.”

Opinion:

WOW.

When I say WOW, I mean…Holy S*** WOW.

I have to say guys, I wasn’t expecting this story to turn out like that at all. A few months ago I was looking through the new books on Netgalley, found this story and immediately requested it. I had heard about these types of camps and institutions years ago, but I have never looked into them that deeply. This story follows Cyndy Etler as she recounts her adolescence and her time in a “tough love” style rehabilitation camp.

At the young age of fourteen, Cyndy is thrown into a boarding school by her mother, or so she thinks. Cyndy quickly realizes that her new home is called Straight Inc., and it is actually a drug rehabilitation center for youths. From her first moments stepping inside Straight, Cyndy begins to realize that the methods used in the facility are far from normal. From being dragged down hallways by her pant loops, group meetings where teenagers wave their arms around erratically chanting, and frightening moments of being broken down by her peers…Cyndy has to decide how she is going to survive in this program.

So let’s first begin with how SERIOUSLY BIZARRE these programs are. Cyndy explains the more than frightening and psychologically damaging rules and things that went on at Straight, and I am still in shock. Kids are lead around by the back of their pants, forced to believe they have drug problems even if they don’t, screamed at and put down by their peers, and encouraged to report each other in order to get ahead in the program. The rules that the program instills is even more absurd. If you lean on the back of your chair in group, a peer will roughly drag their first down your spine to remind you to keep your back straight. As a newcomer, Cyndy wasn’t allowed to look or speak to any boys, and she was monitored at all times…even in the bathroom.

I think the oddest aspect of this program for me was what they called “motivating”. “Motivating” entails all these kids to be sitting in plastic chairs, boys and girls separated on either side of the room. Basically what happens is they flail their arms around above their heads, jerking and screaming about. Cyndy describes this process as a way to motivate each other to want to share your experiences, but admits that many of the kids “motivate” so hard so that they won’t be called on. Once called on, the kids are expected to stand up and admit a story from their past…but in most cases these kids are forced to make something up in order to impress the staff. If you mess up or do something wrong, you are confronted. This is where a peer may run up to you and start screaming in your face, or even psychically harm you.

The list truly goes on and on with all of the strange things these kids were forced to do, and from the outside this program made it look like they were only using tough love and peer pressure techniques to get these kids off drugs (see the below video). Cyndy expresses that it took her years to get “back to normal” after all of the psychological abuse and brainwashing that she went through at Straight. She wrote her story in a way that it felt like the reader was actually with her at fourteen, listening to her describe the horrors that became her life. Her writing style becomes a little confusing when she starts to describe “THE BEAST” or her group when she is first introduced to the “motivating” technique. It got me a little jumbled up, but as I continued to read her writing started to feel like a horrifically beautiful style of poetry which I really began to enjoy.

Honestly, EVERYONE needs to read this. For parents who are thinking of giving this to their kids to read, please keep in mind that there is a bit of sexual abuse that happens in the beginning of the story. That aside, this is a tale that anyone would be enthralled by. As soon as I finished this book I immediately started researching Straight Inc. and other programs like it. This is a disturbing story that will make your heart droop, but it is a MUST read! GO GET THIS!! You will not be disappointed.

For more information and personal stories on Straight Inc., check out SurvivingStraightInc.com

4-5-stars

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